UT organizations hold vigil for Orlando victims

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Greg'ry Revenj, an HIV-positive advocate, speaks at a vigil held at the UT Tower on Tuesday evening for the victims of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida this past Sunday.

Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

More than 100 students and members of the community gathered at the UT Tower to mourn for those lost in the Orlando shooting.

Hosted by the Syrian People Solidarity Group, Texas Queer Students Alliance and Queer People of Color & Allies, the vigil began with speeches by the leaders of the three organizations, followed by a moment of silence and an open-mic session for the audience to share their thoughts.

The event commemorated the 49 lives lost this past Sunday at gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, resulting in the deadliest mass shooting in the United States’ modern history.

Citrine Ghraowi, international relations and global studies junior and co-founder of the Syrian People Solidarity Group, said the group co-hosted the vigil to bring the community together.  

“When I heard what happened, I wanted to do something for the community because I saw that so many people were needing to come together and mourn with everyone else because you don’t want to go through something like this alone,” Ghraowi said.

Ghraowi said she also wanted the vigil to show Muslims condemned the attack.

“We wanted to let people know that not only we as a community stand together, but we want it to be well aware that Islam in general has nothing to do with what had happened,” Ghraowi said. “It’s known that any sort of attack on humanity is not something that should ever be okay. When someone kills one human, it’s as if they’re killing all of humanity … that’s in the Quran.”

Javier Rivera, microbiology and women’s and gender studies senior and director of operations for Queer People of Color & Allies, said news of the shooting was “hard to process” because of the enormity of the situation. He also said if society is more aware of the LGBT community, it is less likely an incident like this will happen again.

“Messages of equality and kindness can help kind of erase any ignorance anybody might have towards [the LGBT community],” Rivera said. “The more people know us, the less they’ll hate us.”

Finance senior Sanchana Vasikaran said the community needs to come together as a whole to prevent future tragedies.  

“They’re people, we’re all people, we live in this nation, we hope to be safe,” Vasikaran said. “I feel like we have to stand up for the LGBT community and the people directly affected, but this has happened several times in the past years and I feel like it’s something we have to address as a nation.”